How to Bet on NBA Games – Best Strategy and Guide

The NBA is one of the most exciting leagues to bet on thanks to the fast-paced action and range of basketball betting options available. Our NBA betting guide covers everything worth knowing, from the types of bets you can make to tried-and-tested betting strategies. We share our knowledge to help you learn how to bet on NBA games and make more informed betting decisions at online sportsbooks.

Betonline sportsbook NBA

All set to find your favorite NBA markets? Check out BetOnline.

Types of NBA Bets – What Can You Bet On?

Like most major sports, there are tons of ways to bet on NBA games. The most popular are the point spread, moneyline, and Over/Under totals, but as as you become familiar with how to bet on NBA games you’ll feel comfortable using more advanced bet types. Below we explain some of the ways to place a bet on the NBA.

Point Spread

Point spread bets can offer a lot of value. This is when you bet on what the score will differ by (the margin of victory) between the underdog and favorite.

Sportsbooks will assign a point spread (expected final score difference) when NBA teams aren’t evenly matched. The idea of the point spread is to show how many points are needed to “handicap” the game toward an even outcome.

If the Denver Nuggets are much better than the Detroit Pistons, how many points would it take to level the odds? Is Denver 17 points better than Detroit? If so, the point spread would show the following:

  • Denver Nuggets -17
  • Detroit Pistons +17

These point spread bets take into account only the margin of victory. The favored team must win by the assigned number of points – or more – for that team to be considered the winning team.

Example bet

As mentioned above, the point spread is to show how many points are needed to “handicap” the game toward an even outcome.

The Pacers, in the example below, are 8.5 points better than the Wizards, according to BetOnline.

Betonline NBA spread odds

Along with the “-8.5” is a “-113” designation. That is the price of making this bet, or the “vig” that sportsbooks collect.

Here, we will bet on the Pacers in their game against the Wizards. If we select the Pacers at -8.5 and place a $20 wager, it will return a profit of $17.70 if the Pacers win by more than 8.5 points.

Moneyline

Betting on the moneyline is when you bet on the outright winner. This is one of the easiest wagers to understand and is popular with beginners who are betting on the NBA.

The competing teams will have odds that provide a guideline for how much you can win if that chosen team wins the game. A plus sign (+) means that team is the underdog (not favored to win), while the minus sign (-) in front of a team’s odds indicates the favorite.

If the Nuggets were listed as -150 on the moneyline, a bettor would have to risk $150 to return a profit of $100. If the Nuggets were +150, a bettor would risk only $100 to return a profit of $150.

Example bet

We’ll use a game between the Pacers vs Wizards from BetOnline to demonstrate the moneyline bet.

Betonline NBA odds moneyline bet

As mentioned, favorites are assigned a minus number (-), while underdogs receive a plus (+) number. Here the Pacers are priced at -355 and the Wizards are priced at +285.

A $20 bet on the Pacers’ moneyline would return a profit of just $5.63 because the Pacers are so heavily favored (-355).

However, if we bet $20 on the Wizards and they won, it would result in a profit of $57.

Over/Under, or Totals

If you’re not sure of the winning team, betting on the total number of points scored is a good option.

Sportsbooks set the total for each NBA game, and bettors have the choice to bet “Over” or “Under” that total.

For example, BetOnline set the Over/Under total in a game between the Milwaukee Bucks and San Antonio at 248 points. You can bet on whether you believe it will be Over or Under that total.

NBA betting BetOnline

Parlays

Once you understand how to bet on NBA games with point spreads and totals, you may feel more confident to move into parlay betting. This is a bet that involves two or more individual wagers and qualifies as one bet, with significantly higher payouts.

The winning parlay bets pay you more because you have to win all of the individual bets — known as legs — to win the parlay. If one leg fails, you will lose the parlay.

Parlay bets are not limited to only point spread or moneyline bets. They can include multiple games, player performance, and can even include multiple sports beyond the NBA.

This can be a highly profitable bet if done successfully and is a great one to weave into your NBA sports betting strategy.

Prop Bets

Prop bets allow you to bet on more than just the final score, eg player or team performance.

Among the most popular player performance prop bets are points, rebounds and assists. You can wager on any or all of these markets.

Other potential targets for making prop bets are adjusted point spreads, adjusted totals, and specific predictions for events to happen in a given NBA game. This could include which team will lead at the quarter or half, which team will score the first basket, and much more.

Live Betting

Live betting allows you to place wagers after the game has begun and is very popular with sports bettors. Sportsbooks adjust odds in real time, giving the avid sports fan new odds with every minute that goes by during an NBA game.

Those changing odds can be affected by injuries, momentum and player ejections, among other happenings.

Futures

When looking through a sportsbook’s futures menu, you’re able to consider a more long-term betting investment as part of your NBA betting strategy.

A futures bet is placed on an outcome to be determined weeks or months in the future, and frequently involves NBA end-of-season results.

The most popular futures bets include Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, NBA Finals winner, and Coach of the Year.

Most sportsbooks don’t restrict these futures bets to preseason only; you can make a futures wager well into a given NBA season.

Example bet

As an example, we’ll wager $20 on the defending champion Denver Nuggets to win the NBA title.

Betonline NBA odds futures betting

If the Nuggets — priced at +450 — were to win, our $20 bet would return a profit of $90. The total payout (including our initial bet) would be $110, so we’d make a $90 profit.

Teasers

Think of a teaser bet as a parlay on steroids. These bets allow you to place the odds at a number that you are comfortable with. You select two or more teams and change the point spread in a game in exchange for a reduction in odds (and, of course, payouts). It makes it easier to win but you won’t win as much money.

Example bet

Let’s look at an example to show you how a teaser could work when betting on the NBA.

In two NBA games – Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets and Detroit Pistons vs Orlando Magic – the Raptors and Magic are the favorites.

  • Raptors -5.5
  • Magic -11

To make a teaser bet, you find the “adjusted” options and choose your number. 

We have selected both favorites, and the “teased” or adjusted number appears in the betslip (usually on the right).

The teaser function has moved the Raptors from -5.5 to -1 and the Magic from -11 to -4.5.

Our “4.5-point teaser parlay” then becomes a Raptors-Magic combination that pays 11 to 10,  meaning if we wager $11, we will take back our stake along with $10, for a return of $21.

Want to place a teaser bet on the NBA today? Sign up with BetOnline.

How to Place a Bet on the NBA

As part of our guide on how to bet on NBA games, we explain the steps you need to take to start placing wagers. It may differ slightly between sportsbooks but the format is usually very similar. 

1. Head to your chosen sportsbook

In order to bet on NBA games online, you’ll need to sign up with an online sportsbook first. Most sports betting sites offer new customers a sign-up bonus, so shop the available offers to find your best deal.

2. Sign up & make a deposit

Once you’ve decided on a sportsbook, create an account and add all the required personal details. Remember to claim any sportsbook bonuses when you fund your betting account.

3. Find the NBA markets

Go to the “basketball” and “NBA” tabs to find the game you want to bet on.

Betwhale nba betting

4. Choose & place a bet

Click the games and teams you’re interested in supporting, find the form of a bet that best suits your preferences. Choose the amount you want to risk on this bet and make the wager on your betslip. Once you’re happy with your stake, place the bet.

Betwhale NBA odds bet

Ready to begin betting on the NBA? Check out BetWhale.

Best NBA Betting Strategies

The best NBA betting strategy is to arm yourself with a good amount of relevant information so you can make informed bets. Below we go into more detail about the type of information you need to study as well as some other ideas that will help form your NBA betting strategy.

1. Research the rivalry

Finding the hidden gems of any matchup should be a key part of your NBA betting strategy. This homework can uncover an advantage when deciding on a bet for a given game.

There could be bad blood based on a previous game between the teams. One side may be looking more strongly at payback and therefore could be more motivated.

The history between the teams can play a role in determining betting opportunities within a game.

2. Track player injuries

Those with the best NBA betting strategies know that information is the key to success.

It is vital to check each team’s injury situation in the hours leading up to the start of the game. A player might have participated in the morning shootaround (a game-day practice session used by all NBA teams), to test an injury.

The outcome of that test will inform the coaching staff as to that player’s availability. That information will be made available in the final hour or so before the game begins and could significantly impact the game’s result.

3. Note how is each team playing

Among the many tips for NBA betting is to study the way the teams have played over the past few games, as it can significantly impact results.

Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, so if a team on a five-game winning streak meets a team on a long losing streak, a bettor can expect current form to hold.

4. Stay on top of odds changes

The odds that move on the day of the game can be the most important aspect of how to bet on NBA games.

Changes can occur as soon as update information is released. That information can be anything from a team’s travel problems to a new injury concern or an injury designation (this player has been ruled “out” of tonight’s game, etc).

Line movement can provide a winning opportunity, so should be factored into forming an NBA betting strategy.

5. Refer to the schedule

An 82-game regular season schedule is a grind on NBA players, so if you see a team scheduled for games on consecutive nights, you may be able to uncover an opportunity.

First, see whether the team on the back-to-back is playing a team coming off a day or more of rest. As far as tips go for NBA betting, this one is clear: One team will be more well-rested than the other.

An additional consideration is that one or more of a team’s star players might be rested in the second of the back-to-back games if he played in the first. This can provide an advantage to place an early wager before that player is officially ruled out of that second game.

3 Top Tips for Sucess

Once you’ve nailed your NBA betting strategy, it’s worth keeping in mind a few of our expert tips.

1. Use your head — only

It’s vital that you separate your heart from your head. If you are a strong supporter of a team or an individual player, it’s usually best to take that under advisement before parting with your money.

2. Capitalize on your knowledge of your team

Follow the trends of a team you’re following. They may have internal strife or injuries that are not yet well known.

2. Observe the ‘public’ money

Check the tools for movement on the NBA betting lines that could inform decisions.

Uncover the percentage of betting tickets on the teams. The public’s opinion can generally be faded, or bet against. There is always “smart money” from insiders who may have found an edge a few hours before a game begins, so also look closely at the dollar amount wagered on a given game.

Team A could have 70% of the bets but only 35% of the money. That tells the bettor that Team B has received 65% of the money, and it’s probably “smart money.”

NBA Schedule

As part of this NBA betting guide, we’ve highlighted a few key dates for 2024 so you can plan ahead.

  • Jan. 11: While this might not be an ideal spot to employ NBA betting strategy, it’s a big event. It’s the NBA Paris Game as the Brooklyn Nets meet the Cleveland Cavaliers in France.
  • Feb. 8: When considering NBA betting, it’s important to keep up to date with potential trades. The NBA trade deadline (3 p.m. ET) can alter the fortunes of NBA teams. Stay informed.
  • Feb. 16-21: The NBA takes its annual break for the All-Star weekend. The game is played at Indianapolis this season.
  • April 14: The final day of the NBA regular season could be filled with excitement when considering how to bet on the NBA and its final day before the playoffs.
  • April 16-19: This aspect of the postseason, the NBA Play-In Tournament, began in 2022 and features the teams finishing seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th in each conference.
  • April 20: Once the survivors of the Play-In Tournament are determined, the NBA playoffs take center stage.
  • May 12: The order at the top of the 2024 NBA Draft is determined with the televised NBA Draft Lottery.
  • June 6: As the long postseason continues, it’s time to start the NBA Finals. Fans can apply their NBA sports betting knowledge to these games between the surviving title contenders.
  • June 27: The NBA Draft. Sports bettors can predict the order and/or specific draft positions in this option for betting on the NBA.

More on NBA Betting

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Jay Dieffenbach

Jay is a Sports Betting Writer at Techopedia.com, and has been working in US sports for more than 20 years. He's worked for Daily Racing Form, the Arizona Republic, The Athletic and FanDuel among other sports and gambling positions.